October 24, 2011

Twins Notes: More trimmings, fewer collisions, and shopping lists

Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko, Anthony Slama, and Rene Rivera were passed through waivers unclaimed and sent outright to Triple-A as part of the Twins' initial 40-man roster trimming and they've since done the same with Phil Dumatrait and Brian Dinkelman. Some of the six guys may stay in the organization, but they've all been removed from the 40-man roster and Tolbert quickly opted for free agency after spending his entire eight-year pro career with the Twins.

Dumatrait had a nice-looking 3.92 ERA for the Twins, but didn't actually pitch well with an awful 29-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio and seven homers in 41 innings. Even the 1.15 ERA he posted at Triple-A to coax the Twins into calling him up involved just 15 innings and a horrible 12-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Dumatrait is a 30-year-old journeyman with a 6.20 ERA and nearly as many walks (90) as strikeouts (97) in 151 career innings as a major leaguer.

Dinkelman is a similar story, as his .301 batting average vastly overstates how well he actually played in 23 games for the Twins. All but one of his 22 hits were singles, producing a measly .315 slugging percentage, and Dinkelman drew just four walks while striking out 14 times. His call-up never made much sense in the first place, as Dinkelman is 27 years old and has hit just .255/.327/.353 in 264 games at Triple-A while being iffy defensively at second base.

Of the six players dropped from the 40-man roster Slama is the only one with any sort of shot to be more than a marginal big leaguer and the Twins avoiding the status quo with their own collection of replacement-level talent is a positive thing. And even after those moves they still have plenty of fungible non-prospects taking up space on the 40-man roster, including Drew Butera, Jim Hoey, Jeff Manship, Kyle Waldrop, and Esmerling Vasquez.

• During a recent radio interview on 1500-ESPN general manager Bill Smith confirmed that the Twins will not make any changes to the training staff following one of the most injury wrecked seasons in team history. Smith noted that "there's nothing from a training standpoint that you can do to prevent" what he called "collision injuries" such as Tsuyoshi Nishioka fracturing his leg while trying to turn a double play or Michael Cuddyer injuring his wrist on a hit by pitch.

As he's done multiple times since the end of the season Smith suggested that Alexi Casilla's hamstring strain was the only prominent example of a non-collision injury, but as Phil Mackey of 1500-ESPN pointed out that's inaccurate. Casilla, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Jim Thome, Francisco Liriano, Delmon Young, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins each required disabled list stints and missed significant time with non-collision injuries.

I'm not really in a position to say whether the Twins need to dramatically shake up the training staff, but for Smith to dismiss the never-ending flood of health problems as simply bad luck and spin the situation with misleading information is disappointing. Yes, many injuries were of the collision variety, but most of those players missed far more time than the initial diagnosis and there were also plenty of non-collision injuries that kept players out far longer than expected.

• Smith also revealed a few other tidbits during that same interview, admitting that the Twins "will be looking" for a veteran shortstop who can provide "solid leadership and solid defense." No surprise, as entering 2012 with Nishioka or Trevor Plouffe atop the shortstop depth chart was never going to happen, but after botching the J.J. Hardy situation upgrading the position is once again a priority. If history is any indication the next shortstop will be underwhelming.

Asked about upgrading the depth at catcher Smith called Butera "a wonderful backup catcher" despite a .178/.220/.261 career line making him one of the worst hitters ever. Of course, more important than the silly platitudes is Smith admitting that "we've got to have more offense out of that backup position" and "are looking to add that." If they aren't willing to cut Butera loose that points to keeping three catchers or at least two catchers and a catcher/designated hitter.

• Last week I wrote about how the Twins' minor league player of the year winners have been a mixed bag during the past decade. David Winfree is perhaps the least successful recipient during that time, winning the award in 2005 thanks to a nice-looking RBI total at high Single-A masking unspectacular overall production and an ugly 93-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Winfree never even reached the majors, leaving the organization as a free agent in 2009.

He's played at Triple-A for three different organizations during the two seasons since then, but put together a good 39-game stretch for the Diamondbacks' affiliate this season and somehow convinced them to add him to the 40-man roster. Winfree is a 26-year-old first baseman/corner outfielder with a .287/.331/.484 mark in 264 games at Triple-A, so even if he finally makes it to the majors in Arizona don't expect the former 13th-round pick to haunt the Twins.

LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the Twins are giving rookie-ball center fielder Eddie Rosario some reps at second base in instructional league games. Rosario had a monster season for Elizabethton as a 19-year-old, batting .337 with 21 homers in 67 games, and given the organization's solid outfield depth and longstanding inability to develop quality infielders it's worth a try while he's on the bottom rungs of the minor-league ladder.

John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, and Parker Hageman are taking pre-orders for their annual "Offseason GM Handbook." I'm not part of the TwinsCentric group and have nothing to do with the handbook, but can absolutely vouch for product as a worthwhile investment. Plus, in addition to 135 pages analyzing offseason possibilities and all things Twins the e-book also features a foreword by Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune and 1500-ESPN. Check it out.

14 Comments »

  1. I bet when Billy was a kid the other kids always got all his marbles! Seems clueless doesn’t he?

    Comment by Mike — October 24, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  2. What does it say about the Twins when Matt Tolbert would rather be a FA, than stay on a team where the manager loves him?

    Is BS more in charge of the roster?
    Is he bailing on a team he thinks will be bad again?
    Was he told the Nishi, Alexi, and Trevor and new guy were all ahead of him?

    These are the questions weighing on every Twins fan’s mind.

    Comment by mike wants wins — October 24, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  3. Babe Dinkelman – We hardly knew ya.

    Comment by Tom W. — October 24, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  4. At the risk of sounding like a “homer,” or of cuddling with Sid Hartman and Charley Walters, I believe the Twins should sign Indians free agent Jack Hannahan to play shortstop. He’s a St. Paul native, had an impressive 2011 season, and has always been very solid defensively at various infield positions. He earned $500,000 in 2011 so a 2- or 3-year contract for $4-6 million would be reasonable and relatively cheap (the team has squandered $15 million on the Nishioka experiment). Plus, Hannahan would be a good insurance policy to back up Morneau at first base or Valencia at third base.

    Comment by jfs — October 24, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  5. When someone says something that is inaccurate and knows that its inaccurate, then the word that you need to use is LYING. Bill Smith is a liar.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — October 24, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  6. Is it mandatory to say “St. Paul native” comes up every time Jack Hannahan is mentioned? I daresay I don’t really care where he was born. Can he play baseball? Unfortunately, he just isn’t very good.

    Comment by Ed Bast — October 24, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  7. Ed, you’re right about the “St. Paul native” tag. Ballplayers should be judged generally on their ability to play well. Hannahan plays well. The numbers don’t lie. When he’s appeared in more than 100 games per season in the Majors, his UZR is very good and his OPS is adequate and improving. His 8.4 UZR and .719 OPS in 2011 were pretty good for a player earning $500,000. By comparison, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, who may be the best unheralded shortstop in the game, posted an 11.9 UZR and a .727 OPS.

    Comment by jfs — October 24, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  8. At the risk of sounding like a “homer,” or of cuddling with Sid Hartman and Charley Walters, I believe the Twins should sign Indians free agent Jack Hannahan to play shortstop.

    Not to be a party pooper, but Jack Hannahan is 31 years old and has never started a game at shortstop in the majors.

    Comment by aarongleeman — October 24, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  9. “If history is any indication the next shortstop will be underwhelming.” OK, since we are expecting “underwhelming”, I’ll do it. The good news; I’ll play for the league min and I can also play backup catcher and hit better than .171 (Butera)

    Comment by Large Canine — October 24, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  10. Aaron, Roy Hobbs was 35 when he joined the Knights and had not previously played a game in the Majors.

    By the way, I read your pieces every week. Great stuff. Thanks.

    Comment by jfs — October 24, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

  11. ….I believe the Twins should sign Indians free agent Jack Hannahan to play shortstop.

    that’s not a bad idea. This is pretty much the class of infielders the Twins should be looking at: cheap, competent, and underrated.

    Comment by Steve J — October 25, 2011 @ 6:05 am

  12. Okay, I didn’t see where he wasn’t a shortstop.

    As a thirdbaseman, he’s not going to be much different from a value perspective than the Valencia’s of the world.

    Comment by Steve J — October 25, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  13. Don’t forget the Twins are high on Brian Dozier as a candidate for SS in spring training. Dozier is doing well in the AFL so far. I say go with Barmes, Dozier, and Casilla as the 2nd baseman/SS next season.

    Comment by oldtwinsfan — October 25, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  14. Check out the hit that Matt Ryan took (from his own tackle) against the Lions this week. His ankle bent in ways ankles aren’t supposed to bend. Yet he came back later the very same game to lead his team to victory.

    He credits the flexibility work the training staff has done with the whole team for his ability to bounce back from what should have been a gruesome injury. The Falcons as a whole have had a lot of luck keeping guys healthy this year.

    Perhaps there are things to be learned there.

    Comment by Steve G — October 25, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

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